When asked his favorite thing about his wife, Mary, Jim Whitacre replied, “How much time do you have?”
Married for 72 years on Aug. 26, it is clear that Jim and Mary’s love story is one for the ages. Since meeting in 1949 and marrying the following year, they have celebrated the arrival of four children, 11 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter, Elizabeth.
Jim first met Mary when she arrived at Elizabethtown College where they were both studying to become teachers, and they quickly hit it off. Jim, fresh off his service with the second division of the U.S. Army Infantry, was taken with Mary, who had enrolled with a friend after two years with North American Insurance.
“He was surely persistent,” Mary joked.
“I somehow convinced her to marry me that year,” Jim added. “I still can’t figure out why she agreed, but, boy, am I glad she did.”
The couple would call many places home, with five moves and four states all covered within their first decade of marriage. They would also welcome children Susan, Eric, Pamela and Lori.
“My favorite thing about Jim is how hard he worked to provide for us,” Mary said. “He was rarely without two, even three jobs at a time.”
Jim’s resume is certainly extensive and includes every career from organic farmer to independent game manufacturer, but his passion was teaching elementary school science and math, which he did for 35 years.
After discovering that she shared her husband’s passion for forming young minds, Mary went on to complete her degree in elementary education and served as an elementary school teacher at Elizabethtown Area School District.
After retirement, Mary and Jim moved to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown in 2017 at the encouragement of their son, Eric, and his wife, Judy. Though Eric has since passed, Judy, who works in the purchasing department at Masonic Village, visits her in-laws frequently.
Though Jim and Mary have lost some mobility over the years, they have not lost their sincere devotion to each other.
“Everyone always asks what the secret is, but I guess it’s just taking the highs with the lows,” Mary said.
“There were certainly a few times where those lows almost got the better of our marriage, but it was our strong faith that kept us together,” Jim agreed. “Mary has been through the thick of it with me. That is one remarkable lady sitting there.”
Though the details are being kept under wraps, the two plan to celebrate with family in September with a party.
Until then, Mary and Jim look forward to the warm weather and each day in each other’s company.